Dark Knight Leveling Guide
Guide Info
Last Updated: 8 Feb, 2022
Patch Applicable: 6.1

Introduction

While this guide is not intended as a complete resource for tanking in dungeons and trials, the following sections will provide a brief primer for those new to the role or who need a refresher. If you are already confident in your job as a tank, feel free to skip ahead to the last section, which covers the evolution of your rotation as you level up to max.

Gearing

Your primary focus until you reach level cap is to accumulate as much defense and vitality as possible in order to stay alive. Luckily, both of these stats scale directly with item level, so deciding which gear to use is rather straightforward; equip the highest item level you can, and don’t worry too much about substats.

As of patch 6.0, defense values for low-level Disciple of War gear have been equalized. Both the Infantry and Cavalry sets from Brayflox’s Longstop, for example, have the same defenses despite the former being equippable by both melee DPS and tanks, and the latter being tank-only.

One last word of warning: Be careful about using crafted gear. Crafted gear comes in both normal-quality and high-quality versions. Normal-quality gear, including the set given out by your first job quest, has significantly lower stats than other gear of the same item level. While the stat squish has made the differences less acutely painful in most cases, try to avoid using normal-quality crafted gear whenever possible.

Know Your Role

Dungeons

  • Keep Grit active at all times. This multiplies all of your enmity generation by ten, allowing you to easily keep the attention of any enemies you damage. Entering a duty which syncs your level down will automatically toggle Grit off, so make sure the icon is present in your list of buffs before proceeding.
  • Make sure you establish hate on all targets. Even if there are only a couple targets present, or if one enemy needs to be singled out to kill first, don’t be afraid to fire off a couple AoE actions to make sure you keep the attention of all enemies before switching to single-target.
  • Rotate through your defensive cooldowns. Large groups of “trash” mobs usually deal significantly more damage than bosses do, so don’t be afraid to use all of your mitigation to get through a pull. In addition to Rampart, Shadow Wall, and The Blackest Night, remember that Reprisal and Arm’s Length are also potent tools. The term “slow” in the description of Arm’s Length means an attack speed reduction (“heavy” is a movement speed reduction), so it will inflict a significant debuff to all mobs which attack you. However, this is ineffective on almost all bosses.
  • Try to keep moving until you have gathered up all the enemies you wish to pull at once, and then stay in one spot until they are all dead. Many jobs have ground-targeted AoE abilities which will heal you or damage enemies and which cannot be moved after being placed. Players also regenerate HP and mana much more quickly while not in combat, so bringing stragglers over to the next group will impact your resource generation, which is especially dangerous for healers.
  • Don’t be afraid to pull more than one group at once. Even in very low-level dungeons, your AoE damage output is quite high and can make up for any party members stuck with only single-target actions. Healing actions are also relatively strong at low levels, so it takes an extremely large group of enemies to outpace your healer’s output.

Trials and Raids

  • Don’t fight for aggro! Only one tank should have their tank stance on at the start of a fight so that the helaers know who to pay attention to. The other tank(s) should turn their stances on after threat is firmly established in case of tank swaps or death of the main tank.
  • Make sure to face the boss away from the party. Many bosses have cleave attacks, which will hit their target and any party members nearby.
  • Hold steady. Melee jobs all have positionals, meaning they need to hit the back or sides of their target for the greatest value. Moving or spinning the boss makes their life much more difficult. Boss movement is perfectly acceptable if you need to dodge an AoE or resolve a mechanic.
  • Pick up any additional targets (“adds”) that appear if you are not holding the boss. Often, you can then bring them over to the boss in order to hit both at once with your AoE actions. In alliance raids, be on the lookout for phases where exactly three adds appear: you will be expected to tank one of them. Usually, the Alliance A tank will pick up the Westernmost add, Alliance B the Northernmost, and Alliance C the Easternmost.
  • Tank swaps are common in higher-level content. To execute a tank swap, the tank not holding the boss should make sure their stance is on and use Provoke, followed by a Shirk from their co-tank. Enemy attacks with castbars will lock in their target at the start of the cast, so you can and should use Provoke while the cast is still in progress.

Skill Usage

Dark Knight’s leveling rotation is fairly straightforward, but it does evolve a fair bit as you level up. This section will cover the more significant additions and how to use the most significant additions to your kit as you receive them. This is not an exhaustive rundown of every action, so if something is not mentioned here, it is either less important or just intuitive on how to use it properly in dungeons.

Levels 1-50

Level 1-25

Dark Knight starts at level 30, but some duties will sync you down to a lower level. At very low levels, your priority is:

  • Single-target combo (Hard Slash -> Syphon Strike) on single targets.
  • Unleash on 2+ targets.

Level 26

New action: Souleater. This completes your single-target combo with additional damage and healing. The damage output between your single-target and AoE options is nearly identical against exactly two targets at this point, so the extra healing from Souleater is preferred.

  • Souleater combo (Hard Slash -> Syphon Strike -> Souleater) on 1-2 targets.
  • Unleash on 3+ targets.

Level 30

New action: Flood of Darkness. This spends mana provides to deal AoE damage and grants Darkside, which buffs all of your damage by 10%. Because Syphon Strike generates mana, single-target combos are now solidly better than Unleash on two targets.

Don’t be afraid to spend your mana at the start of a pull; while you don’t regenerate enough mana while spamming Unleash to keep Darkside active indefinitely, you would need to stay in combat for an extraordinary length of time for Darkside to actually run out.

  • Souleater combo on 1-2 targets.
  • Unleash on 3+ targets.
  • Flood of Darkness on 1+ targets.

Level 35

New action: Blood Weapon. Grants a small amount of mana for the first five GCDs landed during its 15 second duration. Blood Weapon should generally be used on cooldown during pulls.

  • Souleater combo on 1-2 targets.
  • Unleash on 3+ targets.
  • Flood of Darkness on 1+ targets.

Level 40

New action: Edge of Darkness. This is a single-target version of Flood of Darkness. Because its potency is triple that of Flood, it should also be used in two-target situations.

New action: Stalwart Soul. This is the second hit of your AoE combo , giving you MP generation in multi-target situations, and enabling you to use Flood of Darkness more often. This additional combo action also makes your AoE combo stronger than the single-target Souleater combo at 2 targets, where you needed three targets for Unleash to be stronger than Souleater combo.

  • Souleater combo on 1 target.
  • Stalwart Soul combo (Unleash -> Stalwart Soul) on 2+ targets.
  • Edge of Darkness on 1-2 targets.
  • Flood of Darkness on 3+ targets.

Levels 51-60

Level 56

New action: Abyssal Drain. This is an AoE action that does a moderate amount of damage and heals the user for a flat potency for each target hit. While the damage is nice, the healing effect is more valuable for trash pulls. In very large pulls, it can restore quite a significant chunk of HP and allow your healer to catch up on healing or put out some extra damage of their own.

  • Souleater combo on 1 target.
  • Stalwart Soul combo on 2+ targets.
  • Edge of Darkness on 1-2 targets.
  • Flood of Darkness on 3+ targets.

Level 60

New action: Carve and Spit. This shares a cooldown with Abyssal Drain and deals high potency to a single target while also generating a small amount of mana. Abyssal Drain needs to hit four targets to beat the potency of Carve and Spit, but your primary concern when deciding between the two is whether you need the healing from Abyssal Drain or not.

  • Souleater combo on 1 target.
  • Stalwart Soul combo on 2+ targets.
  • Edge of Darkness on 1-2 targets.
  • Flood of Darkness on 3+ targets.
  • Carve and Spit on 1-3 targets.
  • Abyssal Drain on 4+ targets or when healing is needed.

Levels 61-70

Level 62

New action: Bloodspiller. While you unlocked your AoE mana spender before the single-target version, the reverse is true for your blood gauge spenders. Bloodspiller does quite a bit of damage, will not break your combo, and is worth using even in smaller multi-target situations. Blood Weapon will also now grant blood per successful GCD landed during its effect.

  • Souleater combo on 1 target.
  • Stalwart Soul combo on 2+ targets.
  • Edge of Darkness on 1-2 targets.
  • Flood of Darkness on 3+ targets.
  • Carve and Spit on 1-3 targets.
  • Abyssal Drain on 4+ targets or when healing is needed.
  • Bloodspiller on 1-2 targets.

Level 64

New action: Quietus. The AoE version of Bloodspiller. Like Flood, Quietus takes three targets to deal more total potency than its single-target variant.

  • Souleater combo on 1 target.
  • Stalwart Soul combo on 2+ targets.
  • Edge of Darkness on 1-2 targets.
  • Flood of Darkness on 3+ targets.
  • Carve and Spit on 1-3 targets.
  • Abyssal Drain on 4+ targets or when healing is needed.
  • Bloodspiller on 1-2 targets.
  • Quietus on 3+ targets.

Level 68

New action: Delirium. This nullifies the blood cost of the next three uses of Bloodspillers and/or Quietus within 15 seconds, and should generally be used on cooldown.

  • Souleater combo on 1-2 targets.
  • Stalwart Soul combo on 2+ targets.
  • Edge of Darkness on 1-2 targets.
  • Flood of Darkness on 3+ targets.
  • Carve and Spit on 1-3 targets.
  • Abyssal Drain on 4+ targets or when healing is needed.
  • Bloodspiller on 1-2 targets.
  • Quietus on 3+ targets.

Level 70

New action: The Blackest Night (“TBN”). While Dark Knight can feel a bit squishy below level 70, TBN will add an absolutely massive amount of mitigation to your kit. If the shield granted by TBN breaks rather than expires, the user gains a Dark Arts proc, which makes the next Flood or Edge free to cast. At this level, you don’t have enough mana generation to use it on cooldown indefinitely, so you should be more conservative with your mana and primarily use Flood when you have a Dart Arts proc. However, you should try to use TBN only when you’re reasonably confident that the shield will break, or in emergencies.

  • Souleater combo on 1-2 targets.
  • Stalwart Soul combo on 2+ targets.
  • Edge of Darkness on 1-2 target.
  • Flood of Darkness on 3+ targets.
  • Carve and Spit on 1-3 targets.
  • Abyssal Drain on 4+ targets or when healing is needed.
  • Bloodspiller on 1-2 targets.
  • Quietus on 3+ targets.

Levels 71-80

Level 80

New action: Living Shadow. Living Shadow summons a clone which, after a delay, will autonomously attack nearby targets. Because of its extremely high potency per hit, it is superior to any other form of blood expenditure if it can get a single hit off against 2+ targets, or two hits versus a single target. It should be used as often as possible unless you can hold it for a short amount of time for a more efficient usage in the near future.

  • Souleater combo on 1 target.
  • Stalwart Soul combo on 2+ targets.
  • Edge of Shadow on 1-2 targets.
  • Flood of Shadow on 3+ targets.
  • Carve and Spit on 1-3 targets.
  • Abyssal Drain on 4+ targets or when healing is needed.
  • Living Shadow when available.
  • Bloodspiller on 1-2 targets.
  • Quietus on 3+ targets.

Levels 81-90

While there are a few new buttons to press in this level range, none of them affect your skill usage priorities. Oblation provides some additional mitigation, Salt and Darkness is a follow-up to Salted Earth for extra damage, and Shadowbringer is free damage in both AoE and single-target situations. Make sure to use them all when you can for maximum total benefit.

  • Have any questions?
    Authors
    A Pile of Cats
    A Pile of Cats#3945
    Silaqui Amakiir
    qaphla#9458
  • 27 Oct, 2021
    Added
    8 Feb, 2022
    Updated for Endwalker
    13 Apr, 2022
    Updated for 6.1, changing Blood Weapon’s effect and moving Stalwart Soul to level 40.